How I Discovered Poetry
By Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Published 2014 by Dial Books
Award-winning author Nelson poetically describes her development as an artist and her experiences growing up.
There was quite a bit of discussion about this book last year and its chances for winning some sort of literary award. Of course, it was difficult to find a book that discussed this book without also discussing the other well-known verse memoir published last year (which I actually read after this one). It was my year of no library books, so I missed out on this one, but it was one of the first things I checked out when I found myself with some time this year. This book did win a Coretta Scott King Award author Honor.
Is it horrible of me to admit that I'm not overly familiar with Nelson? I had previously read her verse biography of George Washington Carver, and that's about it. My interest in this title mainly stemmed from hearing it discussed by people I admire, all of whom quite enjoyed it. When it won an award, I knew I'd pick it up sooner rather than later.
I wish I'd picked it up even sooner. It's just absolute perfection. Every word is so skillfully chosen and comes together in a way that just leaves me speechless. I am in awe of Nelson's skills as a poet: each entry is written as an unrhymed sonnet. Nelson mirrors her actual development in each poem, with language developing more as the book progresses. It works so beautifully. The illustrations are simple and beautiful as well, and they complement the poetry perfectly. I was completely enchanted by this slim book and it is certainly deserving of its award.
Just a note: I found it interesting that most reviews of this book targeted it for slightly older readers, middle school to high school. I didn't find anything in it that would make me hesitate at giving it to an upper elementary reader.